The weekend of the 15th June saw the World Cup circus roll into Val di Sole in Italy for the third round of the 2013 UCI XC World Cup, with the two previous rounds having taken place in Albstadt, Germany, and Nove Mesto, Czech Republic. 2012 series champion Nino Schurter would go into the event leading the overall following a win at round two, as would the women’s leader Tanja Zakelj of Slovenia.
Val di Sole
The Italian venue is nestled in the majestic Dolomites, and mountains rise sharply from the valley floor. Something of a suntrap, mountain bike events held in the valley have a habit of being hot, dusty and unforgiving on bodies. 2013 would prove no exception, even with the threat of a poor weekend of weather prior to the race the sun beat down on competitors for the entirety of the event.
Saturday’s cross country racing saw temperatures at scorching and the toll on some competitors was clear. Fitness is of course always of the element at the highest level but in Val di Sole it was paramount for survival if nothing else.
Courses have always been technical at World Cup XC events but recent years have shown to be especially demanding, with Val di Sole’s track featuring arduous steep climbs and descents of equal gradient with rock gardens, fresh soil and tree roots making for a true test of equipment and bike handling skills.
The women’s category has featured one name in lights at the top of the board this year; that of 25-year-old Slovenian Tanja Zakelj, who would continue her form with a battle from the start line with Czech rider Katerina Nash. The duo were close for the entirety of the race, having only to pass 2012 World Cup Champion Catharine Pendrel (who took the holeshot and looked set for a top result before slipping back to an eventual sixth place) before opening a lead on the rest of the field that would culminate in a 30-second gap to third placed Emily Batty of Canada.
Women’s Val di Sole 2013 top 5:
1 Tanja Zakelj (SLO)
2 Katerina Nash (CZE)
3 Emily Batty (CAN)
4 Adelheid Morath (GER)
5 Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjaa (NOR)
There are three notable names in the 2013 XC World Cup up to this point: Julien Absalon; Nino Schurter; and Jaroslav Kulhavy. It took Absalon a couple of laps to make up for a poor start and pass Kulhavy to slot into second place and a chase that would see him battle with Schurter down to the line. The two were truly dominant on the tough Italian course and by the finish they were almost two whole minutes clear of third placed Kulhavy, who enjoyed his second top three placing of the season so far.
The final moments of the race came down to a sprint between Frenchman Absalon and Swiss Schurter, but the 2012 World Champion kept the pedal to the metal and eventually Absalon relented. The win was Schurter’s.
Men’s Val di Sole 2013 top 5:
1 Nino Schurter (SUI)
2 Julien Absalon (FRA)
3 Jaroslav Kulhavy (CZE)
4 Mathias Fluckiger (SUI)
5 Lucas Fluckiger (SUI)